Roughly a third of the GDP comes from coastal goods and services, say the WWF-SA Ocean Facts and Futures report released this week.
The country’s 12914 marine species, including flagship and large species, such as the endangered great white shark, represent 15% of the world’s total species. But high-value species, such as abalone and West Coast rock lobster, are at or near commercial extinction.
More than 50% of commercially important linefish species, such as Dageraad, dusky kob, silver kob, Englishman, geelbek, red steenbras, red stumpnose, white steenbras and white stumpnose, are diminishing.
The over-exploitation of fishing is destroying the livelihoods of traditional fishing communities who live along the 2798km coastline.
Inshore and coastal ecosystems that need protection include estuaries, wetlands, lagoons, slat marshes, mangroves and dunes.
Uncontrolled and expanding fossil fuel exploration and bulk sediment mining of the seabed are threats to ecosystems offshore.
WWF-SA marine programme senior manager John Duncan said: “Marine ecosystems underpin human survival and development, from the air we breathe to the food we eat.”
He called for urgent action across sectors, including encouraging consumers to eat sustainably sourced seafood – which major retailers and restaurant chains support. On average each person in South Africa eats 6.25kg of seafood a year, with about 31200t of seafood consumed annually.
Nine percent of the coastline is a “no-take” area. But only 0.5% of the ocean systems are formally protected.
This year Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa published a proposal for another 22 new protected areas, which would increase ocean protection to about 5% within South Africa’s economic exclusive zone – the marine zone, which extends 370km offshore.